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REMEMBERING TRANSLATOR RICHARD MILLERThe extended family of Ubu Repertory Theater was saddened to receive the news of the death of translator Richard Miller, whose many translations of contemporary French plays were produced by that company. Miller died in his sleep July 30 in his home in Paris, where he had lived since retiring from the United Nations.
Ubu Repertory Theater, under the direction of Françoise Kourilsky, presented many of Miller's translations of new French language plays and classics, including "The Just" by Albert Camus, "No Exit" by Jean-Paul Sartre, "Talk about Love!" by Paul Émond, "Another Story" by Julius-Amédée Laou, "A Modest Proposal" by Tilly and "A Tempest" by Aimé Césaire.
According to the New York Times obituary, Richard Miller was born in Lincoln, Nebraska and moved with his family to Kansas as a child. He graduated from University of Nebraska and served in the U.S. Army as an interpreter/translator for army intelligence in Europe. During this time, he became enamored with France. He worked for UNESCO in Paris and the United Nations in New York. Upon his retirement from the U.N., he returned to Paris.
Miller's translations for Ubu Rep were repeatedly praised in the New York Times. Wilborn Hampton, reviewing "The Just" by Camus in 1998, called it an "intelligent new translation" and in 1994, reviewing "A Modest Proposal" by Tilly, declared, "Richard Miller's saucy translation is admirable."
Françoise Kourilsky relates that when she founded Ubu Repertory Theater in New York in 1982, Richard Howard had recommended Richard Miller to her as a brilliant translator of many works of fiction and non fiction from Balzac to Barthes, Brassaï to Lacan. However, he had not yet translated theater and was first reluctant to accept a commission from Ubu to translate "A Tempest" by Aimé Césaire in 1985, feeling "suddenly quite inadequate to the task" because “translating something for the ear as well as for the eye seemed all at once extremely formidable, not to say daunting." At that point, "A Tempest" was the only play by Césaire which had not previously been translated. But upon the insistence of Kourilsky he finally accepted. Ubu published the translation in 1985 and successfully produced it in 1991. A new edition with a preface by Richard Miller was published in 1992. It became the best-selling book of Ubu Repertory Publications. When the theater ceased operations in 2001 after 19 years, Theater Communications Group acquired Ubu’s collection of plays and a TCG edition of "A Tempest" appeared in 2002.
Miller later referred to "A Tempest" as the beginning of what grew into the most rewarding facet of his life as a translator. He continued to translate many varied works for major publishing companies, such as "Scent" by Annick Le Guérer, "Flavius Josephus" by Mireille Hadas-Lebel, "Beethoven’s Ninth :A Political History" by Estéban Buch and recently, "Debussy’s Letters to Inghelbrecht : The Story of a Musical Friendship," edited by Margaret G.Cobb. He was translating a biography of Georges Bizet at the time of his death.
Mr. Miller is survived by two sisters, Suzan Malloy, of Lawrence, Kansas and Maria Patricia Miller Smith. There will be a memorial in Paris some time at the end of September.
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